Scammers are skillful at getting people to trust them with their money and personal information. They’ll bombard you with calls, texts, or emails promising you the world, or pretend to help you out of a (made up) sticky situation. But all they want is your money and private information. They are out to steal your account numbers, passwords, or Social Security numbers.
If you realize that you’ve fallen victim to a scammer, you aren’t alone. However, you must take quick action. A fast response can help you limit the amount of damage the scammer can inflict on your life.
Here’s exactly what to do if you paid a scammer or gave them your personal information.
1. Contact Your Financial Service Provider
If you paid someone whom you suspect is a scammer, contact your bank or service provider immediately. Timely action on your part can help your bank or credit company reverse the transaction and save your money.
Contact your bank or credit card company if you paid the scammer using your credit card or debit card. If you gave the scammer your personal information, alert your bank about the authorized transactions.
If you paid them with a gift card, contact the gift card company, and ask for a refund. Contact the specific company for MoneyGram and Western Union wire transfers and ask them to reverse the wire transfer.
If you used a money transfer app, contact the company that runs the app and ask them to reverse the charges. However, if the app is connected to your card, report the fraud to your bank or credit card company.
If you sent the scammer cash by mail, contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and request them to intercept the package.
2. Monitor Your Credit and Personal Information at IdentityTheft.gov
If a scammer accesses your personal information such as name, address, SSN, or utility number account, they could steal your identity and ruin your life. By assuming your identity, a scammer can run up your credit card, drain your bank accounts, or even ask for a tax refund.
Opening a free account at IdentityTheft.gov, an advisory website run by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), helps stop the damage. It’ll provide you with directions to help you recover your identity and repair the damage. You’ll be required to provide detailed information about the scam and provide personal details such as name and address.
The site uses the information you provide to create a personalized recovery plan to help fix any problem resulting from identity theft. Part of the plan may include setting a credit alert on your account and monitoring your credit card report.
The site will help you track your recovery steps and issue you a personalized letter to send to the bank or credit card companies, asking them to fix the problem. You also get detailed advice about recovering from identity theft.
3. Create a New Password and Make Sure That It’s Strong
If you suspect that a scammer has your password, act swiftly, and change it. Creating a new password denies them access to your account and stops further damage. For your enhanced online safety, always secure your accounts with strong passwords.
A strong password is at least eight characters long, combines upper and lower case letters, and includes at least one special character (@, #, ? & !). Avoid obvious words, names, and dates. The best passwords are hard to guess and aren’t even grammatical words.
Contracted words combined with random numbers and special characters are ideal. A password manager can help keep your passwords safe and retrieve them whenever you need them.
4. Contact Your Phone Service Provider to Stop the Scammer
If a scammer randomly calls you, you need an extra layer of protection around your phone. Call blocking and call labeling are your best defense against unwelcome callers. Your phone service provider can help you pick the best way to block unwanted calls.
Your choice of call-blocking technology depends on the type of phone you’re using.
● Cell phone: Download and install a highly rated call-blocking app from the online app store.
● Home phone with VoIP service: Ask your service provider if they offer internet call-blocking services. Or ask them to recommend a service.
● Traditional phone line: You’ll need to purchase and install a call blocking device to block unknown numbers automatically.
5. Report a Scam to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
If a scammer tries, successfully or unsuccessfully, to scam you, you should report them to the authorities. Reporting scams to the FTC help the government build cases against the scammer, stop the scammers, and educate the public about the current trends.
You can report the scam to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
The site will require you to answer a few questions to categorize the scam. It is advisable to give a detailed account of the incident and provide as many details as possible.
You’ll be required to provide your contact details – you can give as much information as you’re comfortable revealing. The FTC requires contact information to contact you if they need more information about the scam.
Keep Safe Online
Scammers use fear and emotions to manipulate people into revealing their personal information. Tread carefully and never open emails and texts from strange email addresses and numbers. Most importantly, never disclose your private information to anyone, especially over the phone, text, or email.